When Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer officially cancelled all telecommuting and work-from-home for her company earlier this year, the decision caused an internet firestorm.
Everyone from Yahoo employees to business experts weighed in on the decision, alternately lauding the tightening of often-abused policies at Yahoo and lamenting the step backwards in 21st century productivity.
Whether Yahoo’s new policy will have any effect on other companies or industries, it does bring into focus the importance of work-life balance in the modern world. With the old family model of a breadwinner married to a stay-at-home spouse no longer the norm for the majority of American families, it becomes more and more important for employers to allow their employees some flexibility so as to be present for their families.
Unfortunately for dual-income and single parent families, however, many companies are slow to change and adapt to new views of productivity. For instance, my husband worked for nearly a decade at a company wherein face time was considered all-important. If he left work at 5:30 p.m. (after having arrived at 7:30 a.m.), his co-workers would ask if he was taking a half-day.
But even the companies with such a grueling corporate culture know to pay lip service to work-life balance in the interview process. My husband’s company claimed to be committed to providing such a balance to its employees, even though nothing ever changed in over seven years.
So how do you determine if a job will actually be a good fit in your life before you’ve taken it? With some people advising job seekers to avoid mentioning work-life balance in the interview for fear of coming across as a slacker, it can seem as though there’s no good way to figure it all out before accepting the job offer.
Work-Life Balance Tips to Find a Great Employer
Thankfully, there are methods to find out about the family-friendliness and flexibility of a company without either ruining your chances for the position or discovering the downsides too late. Here are three tips for researching the flexibility of your new job both before and during the interview process:
1. Online Search for Work-Life Balance Policies
Just as your prospective employer is googling you, take some time to return the favor (which you’d probably be doing anyway in order to nail the interview). But instead of gleaning important facts to impress your interviewer with, use your search to find out what employees are saying about working there.
Some sites, such as Glassdoor, will provide you with actual reviews of the company from the people on the front lines. In addition, you can check out which companies are ranked as the best to work for in places like Fortune, although that only works for the big names.
Finally, don’t be afraid to check out what people are saying on social media about your company. It’s easy enough to do a hashtag search on Twitter to potentially find conversations about the workplace. LinkedIn can also give you valuable insight.
The bonus is that all of this research can be done on the DL.
2. Ask a Current Employee About Work-Life Balance
The best source for information on this topic is someone who currently works at your prospective workplace. However, it can seem a little difficult or awkward to find time to talk one-on-one with another employee. There are a couple of ways that you can naturally go about this.
The first option is to use your social media contacts in order to find someone you can talk to privately about company culture. The website SimplyHired.com actually makes this simple by offering a Who Do I Know? feature which allows you to find contacts from your LinkedIn and Facebook accounts at various companies.
In addition, during your interview, you can request an informal meeting with someone you would be working with in the new position. While you might not want to directly ask about flexibility and balance, you can often gauge a workplace culture by asking them to describe a typical day and to go over the details of how projects come to completion.
Their answers to those questions can tell you a great deal about the importance of face-time, overtime, and rigid schedules in that company.
3. Work-Life Balance Clues
Ultimately, there will be many cues available to the prospective employee regarding the flexibility and family-friendliness of any particular workplace. For instance, seeing a number of women in leadership positions is often a good sign for a culture of work-life balance.
While no company would ever admit that taking time off to have a baby could limit promotions for career women, that is often the case. A company that allows for family time and flexibility, however, will look at an employee’s overall productivity rather than her long hours when determining promotions.
In addition, if the company mentions social events as one of the perks of joining the team, you can ask for more details about them. If those social events are 11:00 p.m. happy hours, this might not be the right environment for you. But if they have annual holiday picnics and bring-your-child-to-work days, those are signs that the company will respect your family needs.
Finally, while you cannot necessarily believe a hiring manager when she tells you all about the company’s work-life balance, those employers who truly do offer such balance will do more than just give you a throwaway line about it during the interview. You can expect to hear in detail about the flexible environment and why such flexibility has been written either into the company’s mission statement or the employee handbook.
Just because a company does not brag about these policies does not mean you won’t find them, but the companies that do have them will make sure that you know it’s part of the package they are offering.
The Bottom Line on Work-Life Balance at Potential Employers
Finding the right balance between work and home is a constant struggle for all of us. Fortunately, many employers have realized the benefits of allowing workers more flexibility, as it not only increases productivity, but also loyalty.
However, old habits die hard, particular in the corporate world, so finding the right family-friendly job can take some tact and finesse. Using these strategies can help you make sure you land in a position that you—and your family—will love.
What about you? Do you have any work-life balance tips or thoughts on finding a great employer?